Please don’t go Orwoll House…

Orwoll House
The endangered Orwoll House

Here is another house that the City of Granite Falls plans to demolish. This is in addition to the house I mentioned in an earlier blog post. They have already paid $11,750 for the asbestos abatement and will pay $15,845 to demolish the structure.

Demolition notice of the Orwoll House from the local newspaper
Demolition notice of the Orwoll House from the local newspaper

It is a beautiful white (well the vinyl was white, but I see grey original siding underneath the vinyl) Victorian style home built by Mr. Orwoll (word on the street). According to a parcel inquiry done at the Yellow Medicine County Courthouse, the house was built in 1900.  I need to do a lot more research into the history of the home.

I was able to get inside the house (with permission of the current property owner) to take photos and to check out the condition of the structure along with Nicole Zempel, Director of the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and Scott Tedrick, Editor of the Granite Falls Advocate Tribune. As you can see by the photo gallery below, the house has been molested. People have broken into the house to take copper pipes, wood trim, and a couple of stained glass windows that were up in the attic. There is the possibility of recovering some of that since we do know who took those items. To make the house safe, we can raise the money for a dumpster to clean the place out and board up open windows to secure the building. This will keep the public from entering the building and prevent the house from being labeled as a “hazardous structure” by the City of Granite Falls.

The previous owner, who fell behind in payments, did not have the available funding to make necessary improvements required by the city building inspector. So, there is a 40,000 mortgage debt attached to the home. The owner has agreed to just give a non-profit group the home/property. There is hope to get the mortgage debt forgiven by presenting a community driven and supported proposal. I will post the proposal to this blog once it is completed in order to receive feedback. We (Nicole and I) are leaning towards a reuse and proposal that will involve art.

Check out some recent articles written about the arts community in the Granite Falls area:

Steps that have been completed as of March 19th, 2012:

  1. Contacted the construction company who will be demolishing the structure if they would consider opting out of their contract with the city. They said they would for a fee (we do not know the amount yet). Also, they plan to demolish the structure in about a month from today, March 19th, 2012, but would give a heads up to us. I really would hate the shock that would come over me if I drove past the property one day to see it gone.
  2. Began the development of the reuse proposal for the house (Nicole Zempel and I), and we welcome any input or help!
  3. House inspection by the City’s building inspector completed on March 8th, 2012. Money was raised to pay for the inspection at a cost of $250.
  4. A community support document has been created, one online and a physical petition, where we will ask people to sign to show support of this effort. This will show the Granite Falls City Council that there is wide spread interest in re-purposing the home.
  5. According to the City’s zoning regulations, the home could support some type of community project and use.
  6. Received a letter of support from the Granite Falls Historical Society

Next step, delay and ideally, stop the demolition of the Orwoll House.  We plan to approach the City Council on April 2, 2012 (changed that to April 16th) with a petition, proposal (not a complete one), and plan for the future of this house. Mainly, we will be asking the city to give us more time and to delay the demolition.

I will be writing more blog posts about my experience trying to prevent this building from demolition. This is the first time I have been involved in a community led effort to save a building. I do have experience saving a building on my own with my own way of finding money, but not in this way where I am doing it with the help of others through a non-profit and with funding from the community, grants, and loans (at least, that is what I am hoping for). So I am learning from Nicole Zempel, who spearheaded the effort to save the K.K. Berge Building with the help of the community and the Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization group, on how to successfully save a building from demolition and turn it into a space for the cummunity. I am so grateful to have befriended Nicole and to be able to work in the same building with her.

Please click here to sign this petition to show support for the preservation and reuse of this historic structure. We welcome anyone from around the state, country, and world to supports this project. I want to thank you in advance.


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